Android N Developer Preview 4 – A Progress Report

Like many of you, I spent much of late yesterday afternoon downloading the latest Android N Developer Preview.  Preview 4 is very close to the finished product and with it having the final API set that will be released with the public release, it feels far more polished than Preview 3 ever felt on my Nexus 6 or Nexus 9.  It is ready for prime time?  No, but it is close.  Really close in fact.  I’ve put together my thoughts on the overall performance and stability of the release as it relates to my two devices.  Obviously your mileage will vary but for now, I’m happy to share my thoughts to help you decide if you want to jump in on the beta.

To set the ground work, I’ve installed Preview 4 on both my Nexus 6 and my Nexus 9 (Wi-Fi) devices.  My main daily driver, a Nexus 6P, is still running Marshmallow.  My 6P serves as my primary phone for work so I have to make sure I can do everything I need to do on it and not fight bugs.  My Nexus 6 has been on Android N since the 2nd Preview while I bumped up my Nexus 9 during

Android N on The Nexus 6
Android N on The Nexus 6

the 3rd.  I upgraded both to Preview 4 from 3.

Generally speaking, my Nexus 6 on N has always been more stable.  It has had far less issues with lag or stuttering as my Nexus 9 has had over the course of testing with Preview 3.  But it was not perfect for sure.  There were still times where it would just grind to a halt for no apparent reason.  I suspect there were some memory leaks happening but my testing never 100% pinpointed it.  On my Nexus 9, the situation was far more dire.  There were times were it was completely non-responsive in Preview 3, to the point where I had to hard shut it down to bring things back to normal.  I had far more app crashes on the 9 as well.  In fact, at one point just a week or so ago, I was seriously debating withdrawing the 9 from the beta simply because the tablet was simply not performing well at all.

Fortunately I waited.  After downloading the OTA for Preview 4, the Nexus 9 is far more stable.  It runs much better than it did with Preview 3 and dare I say even on Marshmallow.  It is super fast and I’ve had no app crashes on it or my Nexus 6 since upgrading.  Likewise, speed has also dramatically improved on my 6 too.  It is very snappy and responsive to screen swipes and apps.  I chalk a lot of this improvement in speed and stability to the API set in Preview 4.  This build has the set that will be shipping with the final version of N and many of the Google built-in apps have already been updated in the Preview 4 image to utilize these new APIs.  That naturally is going to bring some stability to the devices.

Clearly less than 24 hours with a new build of Android on these devices isn’t a trend.  There is still plenty of testing I need to do but so far I’m very happy with where this preview is and how it behaves on my devices.  In fact, if the rest of this week goes well, I’m looking to install it on my Nexus 6P.  Yes, I think it is that stable – so far.

The decision to install a beta build of an OS is a personal choice and it comes with risks.  Ultimately you have to decide if you want to install it on your devices or wait a few more months for the GA (General Availability) release for your Nexus devices.  If you decide you want to jump in on the beta for yourself, you can register your approved Nexus devices at the Android Beta site.  If you do register your device, try the beta and it isn’t for you, there is an option to go back to Marshmallow.

As for me, I’ll keep testing.  If you have any questions on it, feel free to comment here or catch me on Google+.